By Other Words -- (Tuesday, April 24th, 2012)
By Donald Kaul
Serious commentators are telling us not to assume that the Supreme Court is going to find “Obamacare” unconstitutional just because the conservative justices gave the government lawyer a hard time when the case came before the Court last month.
Somehow that doesn’t make me sleep better at night. This is the same Court that gave us the Citizens United decision, which opened the sluice gates of special-interest money that flooded a political system that was already awash in it. The ruling was the Court’s worst decision since Dred Scott in 1857, which ruled that no Americans of African descent, whether enslaved or free, were U.S. citizens.
You think that the Court is going to find mandatory health insurance constitutional? Nah.
In the first place, you had four votes against the plan right out of the gate. Justices John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito are old-fasioned conservatives. The only change they believe in is change that takes us back to the 18th century.
In the second place, the high court’s lone swing judge, Justice Anthony Kennedy, was one of the more hostile questioners. “You are changing the relationship of the individual to the government,” he told the government’s lawyer.
So forget about it, you health care fans, the vote is going to be 5-4 against the Affordable Care Act.
The only real question is whether the justices will strike down the entire plan or just the compulsory mandate. That’s the part that requires people to buy insurance or pay a fine.
I say it doesn’t make much difference. The only way you can pay for the other provisions of the bill — providing coverage regardless of pre-existing conditions, extending coverage to the poor — is by making everyone pay for it.
Without the mandate, the bill for uninsured people who show up at the emergency room after an auto accident or a heart attack, or with severe diabetes or cancer, will be paid — as it is now — by the rest of us. Those of us with insurance will continue to pay higher insurance premiums and hospital bills than we should.
Apparently, that’s the way a near-majority of American people want it. According to polls, nearly half of American oppose the mandate.
Oddly enough, however, 85 percent favored requiring insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions.
In other words, the American people want health care, they just don’t want to pay for it. There’s a lot of that going around.
Let’s review. According to the Supreme Court majority, we can’t prevent anyone from carrying a gun into a school, church, or Fourth of July picnic.
And we can’t stop billionaires from buying up our system of democracy by the board foot, shoveling unlimited amounts of money into Super PACs, which then buy vicious ads aimed at their favorite candidate’s opponent.
And now it looks like we can’t provide health care insurance to people in our society who need but can’t afford it.
That apparently is the New Freedom. Instead of those freedoms from want and fear that FDR articulated in 1941, we’ve got the freedom to want and fear. The Republican revolution is complete.
There was a time when I thought that this radical conservatism we’re seeing was a temporary fad. I thought it was something we’d grow out of, like a teenager with bad hair.
I mean, after all, the Republican agenda is mainly about low taxes for the rich, paid for by cutting services for the not-rich. How can you win an election with a platform like that in a country where the services for the poor aren’t that great in the first place and the rich are getting richer all the time?
But a lot of people seem to be buying it. And even if it doesn’t happen this time, even if President Barack Obama is re-elected, it won’t be over.
The Grover Norquists and Koch brothers of the world will still be there with their bags of money and a Supreme Court willing to let them spend it.
OtherWords columnist Donald Kaul lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.